Education news briefs from around the state

Michelle Rogers & Penni Cyr
Teacher Michelle Rogers and IEA President Penni Cyr

Jefferson Elementary School in the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District won a $1,000 contribution from the Idaho Education Association this week. A submission from Jefferson teacher Michelle Rogers was selected as the winning entry in the IEA’s Making a Difference contest, a component of the Idaho Public School Teachers: Dedicated to the Ones We Love awareness campaign. Teachers, parents and community members from around the state submitted online entries this fall through the campaign website.

In her entry, Rogers’ noted that Jefferson Elementary is more than 85 percent qualified for free and reduced lunch, and has had funding cut for programs such as physical education and music.

“Our school tries to close the educational gap and build relationships with every single student,” Rogers said. “We try to exhaust every option available in order to help our students succeed and beat the odds they are given based on circumstance.”

Rogers’ entry requested that the contribution be used for items such as school supplies, iPad apps, and equipment for physical education, art and music.

IEA President Penni Cyr presented Rogers and Jefferson Elementary with the check.

The Idaho Public Teachers: Dedicated to the Ones We Love initiative has featured advertisements on radio and television stations around the state.

West Ada seeks building fees to offset growth

The West Ada School District is taking another run at using growth to pay for new schools.

And this time, new trustee Russell Joki is pushing the idea.

Joki is recommending “school capacity fees,” collected by cities and counties in order to cover land acquisition, construction and operation.

Russell Joki
West Ada district trustee Russell Joki

The idea surfaced at Tuesday’s West Ada board meeting, but talks are already in the works, the Meridian Press reported Wednesday. District spokesman Eric Exline met on Sept. 29 with officials from local government, Boise School District and Ada County Association of Realtors, and a working group will meet Monday to start crafting a bill.

West Ada officials have been searching for a vehicle that would provide funding for school building projects — and offset the cost of voter-passed bond issues, such as the $96 million bond issue approved in March.

So far, they have had little success at the Statehouse.

In 2014, West Ada officials pushed for the authority to collect impact fees on new construction — and the Idaho School Boards Association went on record in support. But the idea went nowhere at the Statehouse.

Consequently, West Ada Superintendent Linda Clark and district trustee Mike Vuittonet later endorsed a bill to allow school districts and charters to collect 50 percent of the property taxes from new construction, and apply it to building projects. That bill, proposed by House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, did not make it out of a House committee.

State launches new department to support migrant families

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra on Wednesday unveiled a new department to support migrant students and English Language Learners.

The new Limited English Proficiency and Migrant Education Department has been in the works for months, will be housed within the State Department of Education and will be headed up by director Christina Nava.

“Since taking office, Superintendent Ybarra has been focused on meeting the needs of all students and recognized early in her administration that more dedicated support was needed in this area,” SDE officials announced in a news release Wednesday.

Nava, who has 16 years of education experience, was hired by the SDE under previous schools chief Tom Luna in January 2013. Nava has taught in Oregon and Idaho and previously headed up migrant, Limited English Proficiency and federal Title III programs in the Nampa School District.

“I’ve been fortunate to be able to use my school- and district-level experience and knowledge here at the state to support students,” Nava said in the SDE news release.

Within the new department, Nava will be supported by migrant education program specialist Kelly Wheeler, migrant education program coordinator Sarah Seamount and Title III/LEP program coordinator Alissa Metzler.

Wheeler’s resume boasts 25 years of experience with the SDE, and she was recently promoted in January. Seamount and Metzler are newer hires, having joined the SDE in July and September, respectively, SDE spokesman Jeff Church said.

More information about the Limited English Proficiency Program and the migrant education programs are available online at the SDE’s website, or by clicking the highlighted text in this sentence.

Middleton superintendent to retire in June

Middleton School District superintendent Richard Bauscher will retire on June 30.

Bauscher, Richard
Richard Bauscher

Bauscher announced his retirement during Monday night’s school board meeting.

Bauscher was a 27-year school veteran in 2001 when he was named Middleton’s superintendent. He presided over the Canyon County commuter district during an extended period of enrollment growth.

Enrollment increased by 85 percent during Bauscher’s time as superintendent, reaching 3,772 in 2014-15. That growth continued in 2015-16 — prompting the district to collect a $190,000 emergency levy, weeks after voters approved a two-year, $2.62 million supplemental levy.

Bauscher also presided over a time of considerable staff growth. District staffing increased by 153 percent during his tenure.

After his retirement, Bauscher says he plans on doing some consulting work and teaching college classes, as well as spending time with his family.

There was no immediate word on a possible successor.

Mountain Home receives grant

Officials in the Mountain Home School District have received a five-year, $1.5 million grant designed to help the district improve its math program.

The grant was awarded by the Department of Defense Education Activity and will allow the district to launch its Using Professional Development and Technology in Education for Math (UPDATE) program. The program is designed to boost students’ math achievement by providing professional development to teachers.

“Through a collaboration with Boise State University, we are pleased that we will able to provide in-depth math education best practices to our staff,” Superintendent James Gilbert said in a written statement. “While this grant targets military student achievement, I feel strongly that all students in the Mountain Home School District will benefit from this grant.”

House Education Committee member plans to retire

A retired teacher and a member of Democratic legislative leadership will not seek re-election in 2016.

Pence New
Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding

Rep. Donna Pence of Gooding will retire after a dozen years in the Statehouse. Pence announced her plans in a statement Tuesday.

“Strong political headwinds in the Capitol often create more challenges for the people, businesses, and communities of our rural district,” she said. “I have been proud to press for better educational opportunities, smarter business incentives, and for building our infrastructure.”

Looking past the 2016 session, Pence’s pending retirement creates one opening on the House Education Committee — and, come 2017, an opening in House leadership. Pence had chaired the House Democrats’ caucus.

But before that, her retirement creates an open seat in the Magic Valley’s legislative District 26, which includes Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties. District 26 is a rarity in Statehouse politics: a swing district. It is one of only three legislative districts with a split delegation; Ketchum Democrat Michelle Stennett represents the district in the Senate, and Pence’s House colleague is Rep. Steven Miller, R-Fairfield.